So…you’re kinda like a psychologist…
I often get this comment right after I explain what I do.
So here's my answer:
Well.... uhmm, kinda... but no, but kinda. But actually no.
I think it’s super important to acknowledge that I’m not a professional psychologist. I am not trained to be a psychologist, registered or qualified to be one. That’s plain and simple not my job.
I am however, a physiotherapist and a Pain Coach who is trained (and continues to train) within a psychological framework called Acceptance & Commitment Therapy or ACT.
I believe that working with people with persistent pain requires me to have this training, even though it's not really considered normal within the typical musculoskeletal physiotherapy world.
I mean how can you work with people who are struggling to make sense of something going on with their body that is affecting (often) every aspect of their life without addressing how it is affecting them?
How could you say that having pain, that is getting in the way of:
your social life,
your family life,
your relationship to your body,
how you move and how often
your choice of lifestyle (ranging from activities you do to types of intervention you're comfortable with, and time spent seeking care etc.. )
wouldn’t challenge you and bring up an array of emotions?
I mean doesn’t it seem silly not to address the human (including their emotions!) when you notice that? Can you imagine what it might feel like to be going through something like that?
Persistent pain affects the whole person, which includes thoughts, feelings, emotions and their internal/external support systems, so that’s what I work with.
Sometimes we zoom in, because it can be helpful and then sometimes we zoom out again, because that helps up look at things from different perspectives. Which in turn helps us to cultivate more psychological flexibility and the chance to find solutions that weren’t seen before.
Working with the whole person requires me to work with all levels of how the pain is getting in the way of your life and that can include looking at:
your work life
your wants, desires, and needs,
your support system
you care choices
your movement and activities
and often there is more…
I mean, that’s normal. It’s normal for one, because you’re a human and all humans have multifaceted lives and for two, because no person living with persistent pain lives with their pain neatly tucked away where it never gets in the way or disrupts life.
So, yes, I work with psychology, but no, I’m not a professional psychologist. I will always refer my clients to professional psychologists if I feel they/and they want to seek out more professional support for certain things. Many times this works in tandem and can be really helpful when you have even more support.
And I think it’s important to note that even if you work as a physio or doctor or any other healthcare provider who works with humans, to recognize that you also work with psychology, because psychology exists 24/7. Just because you don’t look at it doesn't mean it isn't’ there. It is just the difference between whether you want to admit it or not, and if you want to cultivate the skills that are actually required to help and support humans on their journey of change.
What do you think about physiotherapists learning about psychological frameworks?
Do you think working with persistent pain requires specialization beyond traditional physiotherapy or other healthcare educations?
Thank you for reading. Have nice day!
Let me know what you think below or send me an email: email@example.com
Connect with me on Instagram: @thoughtfulphysio
P.S. If you live with persistent pain and you are looking for some extra support. This is one of my FREE offerings.
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